Surviving vs Thriving

Having lived with mental illness for so long, I have found myself in various stages of functioning.

There have been times, where in the depths of depression, I haven’t even been able to stand up, or wash, or drink.

There have been times, when in the throes of mania, I haven’t been able to sit down, or sleep, or stop talking.

There have been times, when absorbed in anorexia, that I haven’t been able to eat, or concentrate, or think about anything other than food.

Despite all of these difficulties, as an adult, I have taken very little time off work over the last 10 years (albeit a big chunk recently for day patient). I have kept my friendships. I’ve maintained a relationship. I’ve got a degree. I have, by all accounts survived. But have I been thriving during this time?

I spent around two years back in 2013-2015ish in what I would consider as ‘recovered’ as I was going to get from my eating disorder. I didn’t weigh myself, I ate intuitively, I exercised healthily. Although I did have a manic episode and a depressive episode during that time, I recovered from the both well, and I would say that for at least a year of that time I was ‘thriving’. Although my life on the outside looked similar to when I have been merely surviving, I felt different in myself. I felt free, stable and in control of my own health and wellbeing.

Sadly, that isn’t something I can say for myself currently, I feel that I am maybe somewhere in the middle. I’m not scraping by by the skin of my teeth anymore but equally, I do still feel that I am somewhat controlled by anorexia, despite now being a healthy weight, because an eating disorder doesn’t live in your body, it lives in your mind. The thing that keeps me going through all of this, however, is that I know I have been in that place before where I do feel almost entirely free from it, and that maybe that means I can get there again. If I hadn’t had that window of wellness in amongst the years of illness, I may honestly have given up by now and lost hope that it is possible, but I know from experience that it is.

One day, I will thrive again.

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Mental illness - the difference between surviving and thriving

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